The Beginner's Guide to Glass Pipes
No matter what innovations there are in the cannabis world, one thing will always remain true: glass is perfect for smoking, and it has been - and will always be - an absolute mainstay when it comes to this form of cannabis consumption. Whether you’re a seasoned smoker or brand-new to the world of cannabis, you definitely need to know about glass pipes. There are so many different kinds out there, so many different price points, so many different designs, and so much terminology, that even if you’ve been smoking for years, it can be extremely confusing to figure out the differences between all the glassware available. The last thing you want to do is invest in a glass piece you’re not really going to use, or worse yet, provides you with an experience you don’t want.
In this guide, we’ll demystify everything about glass pipes for you and hopefully answer all of your questions. We’ll explore the different kinds of glass pipes you need to know about, their ideal uses, and how to choose the best glass pipe for your smoking experience.
What is a glass pipe and what are glass pipes used for?
Wondering what glass pipes are used for? A glass pipe, simply put, is a smoking apparatus made from glass. You put the material you’re going to be smoking on one end, you light it, and you inhale through the mouthpiece. Everything in between can vary wildly, which we will get into later on, but that’s the most basic definition.
Historically, pipes have been around for thousands of years and were integral parts of ancient culture, either as part of some sort of religious or spiritual ritual, recreational use, or even to promote healing. Other materials have been used for pipe-smoking, including wood and even corn cobs. However, they eventually fell out of favor and were mainly replaced with pipes made out of metal or glass. It’s difficult to pin down the origin of glass pipes, but they do have a key advantage over metal, which is that they do not get nearly as hot. For smoking, this makes glass pipes extraordinarily practical. They also happen to be a lot more appealing due to the aesthetic and artistic value that many glass pipes have.
Why choose glass pipes?
Another one of the most important benefits to glass pipes, other than practicality, is that while glass can heat up, it will not alter the purity or flavor of the cannabis you’re smoking. When you heat up glass (to the extent that you’d need to when smoking), nothing happens other than the glass getting hotter. With wood, metal, or other materials, the taste of your cannabis will eventually get altered in some way, or in certain cases, toxins will actually leak into your flower. With glass, you’ll know that the only thing getting turned into smoke or fumes is what you have in the bowl - whether flower or tobacco.
From an aesthetic point of view, nothing can replicate the artistic beauty of glassware. In fact, glass blowing is an art form in and of itself, and when it comes to glass pipes, glass blowers have been known to mix in color pigments and experiment with interesting shapes and sizes. Finding a unique glass piece can be equivalent to investing in a unique piece of functional art.
Different Types of Glass Pipes
The term “glass pipe” is essentially an umbrella term to describe any smoking device made with glass. There are several different versions of glass pipes, each with their unique aspects and benefits. We’ll go through the different glass smoking pipe types available on the market today so you can decide what might be the best choice for you.
Glass spoons, also known as bowls, are probably the most popular type of glass pipe, as they are essentially the “entry-level” piece to the world of glass smoking devices. If you own a glass piece, 9 times out of 10 it’s a spoon. A simple design with a spoon-shaped bowl into which you pack your flower or concentrate, which has a small hole in the bottom to allow the smoke to travel through the body of the pipe and into the mouthpiece. Near the bowl, usually on the side, is a small hole called a “carb” which allows you to control airflow inside the pipe by covering or uncovering the hole with your finger. On the other side of the body, you’ll find the mouthpiece.
If you’re looking for a basic, classic, versatile smoking device, a spoon is likely your best bet.
Water Pipes (Bongs)
Quite possibly the next most popular type of glass piece is a bong, also called a water pipe, which can be defined by the inclusion of a chamber to be filled with water. As the smoke goes through the bowl and into the water, it gets cooled and filtered or purified, which produces a much smoother and better-tasting smoke. With a large (sometimes very large) chamber above the water chamber, you can generate a lot of smoke to inhale in a bong. Contrary to a spoon, there is usually no hole for a carb, but rather the bowl itself is attached to a stem, which feeds into the water and can be lifted out of the main piece to control the airflow.
Chillums are super simple and discreet. They’re essentially a basic glass tube with a bowl on one end. Pack a small amount of cannabis or other herbs on one side, ignite it, and pull the smoke through the other end. This is perfect if you’re a lightweight or simply want the smallest glass pipe possible.
Similar to chillums, steam rollers are in the shape of a tube. However, they’re usually larger, and there’s a depression on the side of the tube for packing cannabis or other herbs. The end of the tube is used as a carb. This allows you to fill the entire tube with smoke at one time for a powerful hit. Steamrollers are not for the faint of heart, but they’re certainly efficient.
Bubblers are another type of pipe. They use water and are a blend of a bong and a spoon. They’re essentially spoon pipes that include a small water chamber, so you can get the more enjoyable filtered (and cooler) smoke benefits of a bong with the convenience of a spoon pipe.
US glass vs Chinese glass
There are two schools of thought when it comes to comparing glass pipes made in the US versus glass pipes made in China. Many glass pipe aficionados will say that Chinese glass pipes simply do not match the quality of the ones made in the US, and because Chinese glass is so mass-produced it’s not nearly as unique. These purists maintain that China doesn’t have the quality assurance of glass made in the US, so it may be thinner and easier to break as well.
While those points may be true, if overall affordability is your main consideration, you may want to look into pipes made in China.
Which is better to choose?
Now that you have a good idea of the types of glass pipes that are available to purchase, how do you decide which pipe style is best for you? There are two main factors to consider.
What is your budget?
Like we mentioned before if affordability is your main concern and you just want something functional, a small spoon pipe or chillum made in China might be your best bet. But if you’re looking to invest in a glass piece that has a unique artistic quality and will be crafted for durability, you will surely be able to find some amazing pieces from American glassblowers.
What kind of experience do you want?
Most importantly, experience is key. If you’re only an occasional and casual cannabis user, buying a 3-foot glass bong is probably not a great choice. Start with something simple like a spoon pipe or small bubbler and see if that works for you. If you’re an experienced veteran looking for something to deliver a more powerful experience, then a bong or steamroller might be the best choice for you overall.
Glass pipes are truly an essential component of any smoker’s arsenal. And if you’re looking for a great place to get started, check out our excellent selection of glass pieces. No matter what experience you desire, we have just the right option for you.
- Anant Derhgawen